OBJECTIVE: To systematically review the literature on interventions involving parents that aim to prevent body dissatisfaction or eating disorders in children, and provide directions for future research by highlighting current gaps.
METHOD: The literature was searched for articles using key concepts: parents, prevention and eating disorders or disordered eating or body dissatisfaction. All English language publications between 1992 and 2013 were searched across a range of academic databases. Studies were reviewed if they: (i) delivered an intervention designed to reduce eating disorders or body dissatisfaction or their risk factors, in children or adolescents; (ii) provided some intervention component for parents; and (iii) included some outcome measure of intervention effectiveness on disordered eating or body dissatisfaction. A scoring matrix based on the Critical Appraisal Skills Program (CASP) screening questions was used to assess each study's sample representativeness, relevance and data quality.
RESULTS: From 647 novel records uncovered by the search, 20 separate studies met inclusion criteria. The CASP scoring matrix revealed eight studies provided no relevant data, four relevant and eight highly relevant data on the effects of involving parents in prevention programs. Two of four high-quality studies reported that parental involvement significantly improved child outcomes on measures of body dissatisfaction or disordered eating.
DISCUSSION: Although a greater focus on engaging and retaining parents is needed, this review demonstrates that a small number of prevention studies with parents have led to significant reductions in risk of body image and eating problems, and future research is indicated.